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From Pastor Kent’s Desk

I’m listening to Christmas music as I write this. I vowed I’d wait until after Thanksgiving before I did, but how can you write about Christmas without Christmas music playing in the background? We’ve got more than 200 Christmas recordings on CD’s and vinyl in our collection. Some go back to the 1960’s but still sound great! Being musical purists, the collection is divided into Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany recordings. We’re heavy on English cathedral choirs – there’s nothing like the boy choir sound to make the season bright! More than any other season of the church year, music plays an integral role in the celebration of the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany cycle. The carols, the hymns, the cantatas tug at our hearts and send them soaring Each of us has our favorites, and the season wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t hear our “special music.” It reminds us of Christmas’ past, when we were children and our families were gathered all around the tree early on Christmas morning. We couldn’t wait to open our gifts, and before we knew it, the wrapping paper was strewn all over the living room floor and we were busily playing with or assembling our “big gifts,” as Christmas music played in the background. More than likely, we’d been at the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at church the night before. It was an opportunity to sing favorite carols and hear glorious anthems from the choir. When you were young, you snuggled-in next to your folks and dozed-off while the minister preached the obligatory Christmas Eve Sermon. It was the only other time during the year that the church was packed, and the minister had to make a good impression on the visitors! (I know that from experience!) Our memories are wrapped-up in the music, and when I hear it, they come rushing back again. I know the Christ Child is the “reason for the season,” but it is much more complicated than that. It becomes even more so with age. But lest we dwell only in the past, let’s live fully into this season. As we gather at Bethany for the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany cycle of 2019, let’s make new memories. The Christ Child is the reason for the season – we must never forget that! Our hearts and minds are renewed each time he comes, and our lives take on new meaning for the coming year. So, here’s to the music of the spheres as the angels join in chorus once again to announce the royal birth. The Babe of Bethlehem has come again to a waiting world!
A Very Merry Christmas to All! Kent

The Giving Tree

Once again it’s time to put up the giving tree. This year we are again assisting residents of Conestoga View. These are individuals who most likely would not receive a gift at the Holidays without our contributions. We also have chosen to provide gifts to a family from La Iglesia de Resurreccion. As usual we will have tags on the Christmas tree with gift ideas. Please watch for the tree to appear and help “un-decorate” it by choosing a tag and supplying a gift. By doing so you are truly sharing God’s love in this community. Gifts are due no later than Sunday, December 15. Please be sure to label your gifts for either Conestoga View or La Iglesia de Resurreccion.

Fifth Annual Advent Luncheon

On Sunday morning, December 8, Bethany Presbyterian Church will hold its Fifth Annual Advent Luncheon. The Luncheon will begin immediately following Worship, which begins at 10:30am that day. Please note time change. Members are asked to bring either a salad, vegetable, or dessert to serve eight. The main entre this year will be turkey. Beverages will be provided by The Presbyterian Women. Items for the luncheon may be brought to the kitchen on Sunday morning before Worship. Donegal Hall will be open on Saturday, December 7, so that the tables may be decorated by individuals or families who wish to do so. Mark your calendars and join us for this time of festive food and fellowship as we celebrate the Advent Season.

A Christmas Carol Celebration: A Cantata for Choir & Congregation

On Sunday morning, December 8, during morning worship, our Chancel Choir and Chamber Orchestra will present A Christmas Carol Celebration: A Cantata for Choir & Congregation. Brimming with fresh arrangements of favorite carols by Benjamin Harlan, with a creative narration written by Ragan Courtney, A Christmas Carol Celebration offers a unique and poetic perspective of the Birth of Christ. The Rev. Dr. Erin Cox-Holmes will be our guest narrator. Plan now to invite your family and friends to join you for this very special performance of the music of the season. You, and they, will be enriched by this beautiful musical experience!

Straw for the Manger: Creating a Matthew 25 Advent Season

Our 2019 Advent Devotional will be Straw for the Manger, from the creators of Presbyterians Today. It is written by the Rev. Sherry Blackman, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of the Mountain, in Delaware Water Gap. The devotional will let us explore the ways that we as individuals of all ages and as faith communities can be a “touchable God,” offering one another the gift of God’s presence and living our faith through the actions we do in Christ’s name. Copies of Straw for the Manger will be available on Sunday mornings from the ushers or on the table in the Narthex. One copy will be available for each household in our congregation. This will be a wonderful opportunity for you and/or your family to join with other members of our congregation, as together, we journey through Advent to Christmas!

2019 Advent Study

We will be exploring Advent in new and exciting way during Advent 2019. Our guide will be a new book by author, professor, and renown biblical scholar, Amy-Jill Levine. The title of the study is Light of the World: A Beginner’s Guide to Advent. Dr. Levine is the University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School. In the study, we will be focusing on the biblical texts surrounding the story of the birth of Jesus. We’ll join Dr. Levine as she traces the Christmas narrative through the stories of Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary, the journey to Bethlehem, and the visit from the Magi. These stories open conversations around connections of the Gospel stories to the Old Testament, the role of women in the first-century Jewish culture, the importance of Mary’s visitation, and the revolutionary implications of Mary’s Magnificat, the census and the stable, and the star of Bethlehem and the flight to Egypt. Our study will begin on Wednesday morning, November 27, at 10am in Memorial Parlor. Copies of the book will be available in the Narthex, or from Rev. Holmes. Plan on joining us for what will be an intellectually stimulating and spiritually nurturing experience! It will be a wonderful addition to your Advent preparations.